WINNIPEG -- Last week retail stores and hair salons were given the green light to reopen, but not all businesses got the go-ahead, and the body modification industry is still waiting to resume operations.

Owner of Kapala Tattoo, Rich Handford, has a sign on the front of his business that reads "safer than any big box store."

He said being closed for the last couple of months has been devastating for his business and mental health.

"To be excluded [from reopening] really speaks to a misunderstanding of the protocols we have in place in our industry in general," he said.

Handford said tattoo industry protocols are similar to the medical and dental procedures.

He said the code red restrictions have impacted the livelihoods of some of his peers in the industry.

"I have two personal friends that have sold their homes, I have a third that is closing his business and selling their building," said Handford.

"We are not statistics, we are Manitobans with families."

A petition is circulating online advocating for the safe reopening of the body modification industry in Manitoba, and it already has more than 10,000 signatures.

Recently the Manitoba Liberals sent an open letter to the minister of health, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin about the impact code red restrictions have had on small businesses.

Party Leader Dougald Lamont said what is essential is subjective. Instead, the province should be focusing on what is safe.

"People can do this safely, and you're not talking about crowding. A tattoo studio doesn't have 200 people in it like a grocery store does," he said. "If this can be done safely, it makes sense to reopen."

Lamont said if the province is going to force businesses to close, they have an obligation to help them out financially. He doesn't believe they've done that.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said the government couldn't open the province all at once, and restrictions are in place to bring COVID numbers down.

"The more people interact, the more likely we're going to see transmission, so when we have these orders that limit the need for people to travel outside of their homes," he said. "It's the surest way to limit interaction."

Roussin said COVID case numbers have gone down, evidence the restrictions are working.

Handford said his business doesn't pose any more risk of transmission than getting a haircut or going to the grocery store.

"We're looking for fair and equitable consideration," Handford said. "We're looking to open fairly, we're looking to open safely."